Blog : Psychotherapy

3 Ways to Reduce Stress Using Mindfulness

It’s another day at work, and you get one of those emails.

You know… one of those emails.IMG_2340.JPG

Maybe the email is from a coworker or from one of your bosses. Either way, it’s the email that you get about once per day, and it makes your blood boil. The thing they’re emailing about is last on your list of things to do, but the email is still enough to keep you in a constant state of stress and anxiety.

The WEIRD (Western-Educated-Industrialized-Rich-Democratic) culture that we live in continues to demand more and more of us. Living in this fast paced world can be extremely damaging to our health, and can leave us feeling disconnected from the earth and from each other. Stress has been shown to lead to significant health and relationship issues.

What would it be like to live a life free of chronic stress, fatigue, and energy depletion? How could I live a life fully connected to earth and focused on the moment?

It may sound like something you can never attain. This may be true; however, there are a few simple habits that can be integrated into your daily life fairly easily which have been shown to have a dramatic impact on stress and anxiety.

The techniques that I am about to explain are rooted in a practice called Mindfulness. This term may seem like the new “hip” buzzword, but it is rooted in an ancient tradition of practicing intentional living. I’ll start by explaining what Mindfulness is NOT.

Mindfulness is not a method of escape. Unlike other meditative techniques which may attempt to clear your mind completely and escape life, Mindfulness is an active process of becoming more aware of yourself in the present moment. Mindfulness stresses (no pun intended) the importance of the moment.

Because all we have are moments to live. 

Since all we have are moments, Mindfulness allows us to more fully live them one by one. Here are a few helpful techniques to get you started (derived from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction training):

1.) 3 Minute Mindful Breathing 

Set your clock for 3 minutes. Sit in a chair with excellent posture. Close your eyes, and begin breathing in for 4 seconds, then hold your breath for 4 seconds, then slowly breathe out for 8 seconds.

In for 4, hold for 4, slowly breathe out for 8.

Continue this rhythm, and begin to notice your thoughts. You may have a thought that brings anxiety (maybe it’s the email you received earlier). In this case, instead of rejecting the thought, you are going to let it in. Let your mind experience the thought, and note the emotional experience that you encounter. It is important to not judge this. This is an intentional practice in non-judgment.

Let the thought in, notice how it makes you feel, and simply return to your breath.

Imagine this rhythm as if you’re driving down an empty highway early in the morning. Your thoughts are like the road signs that pass by. They come in, you experience their impact on your mind, and you return to the road. Continue for 3 minutes and when you’re done take note of your current state.

2.) Mindful Appreciation 

Wherever you find yourself, begin to think about 5 things that you are appreciative of. Try to focus on things that typically go unnoticed, such as the electricity powering the air conditioning in your office, or the infrastructure which provides water to your faucet. Spend a few minutes intentionally practicing gratitude for 5 things that you may take for granted most of the time.

3.) Mindful Body Scan

Lie on your back and close your eyes. Begin Mindful Breathing (see technique #1). Once you find a good rhythm of breath, begin to imagine a scanner moving up through your body. The scanner starts at tips of your toes, and is monitoring how each square inch of your body feels. Begin to move this virtual scanner up through your left foot, passing you ankle, your shin, your knee, until you hit your pelvic bone. Next, jump down to the tip of your right foot, and begin to move up toward where you left off before.

Continue this scanning method all the way through your body until you reach the top of your brain- all the while noting how each square inch of your body feels. Notice if any areas feel particularly good or bad. Once you reach the top of your head, imagine a hole in the top of your head releasing the energy that the scanner has put into your body. Take note of your current state, and compare it to how you felt prior to doing the body scan.

Practice these 3 techniques once per day for a week, and observe whether you feel or think differently.

Are you interested in engaging in counseling to help you live more mindfully? Do you have questions? Contact Tim.

About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim’s counseling focus areas are anxiety, motivation, and identity issues. Tim is also an adjunct instructor at Jackson College where he teaches Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Intro to Counseling.

 

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Ikigai

What do you want to do with your one precious life?

I came across this word while working at Toyota. The Japanese language comes from a rich tradition and has words that have a depth of meaning that we sometimes can’t capture with the English language. The word is Ikigai.

The direct translation of this word is:

A reason for being.

Ikigai. A combination of that which you are good at, that which you can be paid for, that which you love, and that which the world needs. Everyone, according to Japanese tradition, has an Ikigai.

As adults we often find ourselves in a position in life that we never expected to be in. When we’re younger we have huge plans. I recently had a 13-year-old counseling client tell me that he is going to make 60 million dollars by the time he reaches 20 years old!

Now it would have been easy for me to laugh and write him off. But I took a second to think back to when I was his age. When I was his age I was absolutely determined to be an NBA basketball player. I would get in before school every day and shoot 100 free throws before my first class. I would carry my basketball with me throughout the day, hoping to get a quick minute in between 3rd and 4th hour to shoot some hoops. You couldn’t convince me that I wasn’t going to make the NBA. I was determined.

Now if you ask some of my friends when I was that age, they may tell you that I was obsessed. And they’d be correct. But for me, making the NBA was about more than just the dollars and fame. It was also about having a platform to make a large impact on the world.

So when my client told me that he wanted to make 60 million dollars by the time he reached 20 years old, instead of laughing, I explored with him what was behind the money.

Because it’s never really about the money.

My client went on to tell me that he wants to reach the world through his music. He wants to help other kids who have struggled because he knows what it feels like to struggle, and music helped him get through it. My client wanted to have an impact on the world, doing something he loved, that he was gifted in, while also generating income.

So if you find yourself in a place in life where you’re unhappy, where you know you don’t want to be, where you are slowly dying, I have some good news for you.

Today you have an opportunity. You have the capacity to step back into your childhood self and ask a few questions;

What is it that I truly desire? What do I love, and how can I do more of it? How can I make an impact on the world while doing what I love?globe

When we’re doing what we love and others benefit at the same time, we all win. The best kinds of products and services are always mutually beneficial. They are beneficial to the consumer because they are getting a product or service that truly adds value to their life, and they are beneficial to the producer because they are tapping into their Ikigai.

So I want to challenge you today. What is it you love? What is it that you’re good at? Is this something that the world needs? I bet so! So why aren’t you making an income doing it?

Ikigai. Your reason for being.

I would love you help you on your journey toward discovering the reality of your Ikigai. Feel free to contact me!

IdentityAnnArbor.com

About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim’s counseling focus areas are anxiety, motivation, and identity issues. Tim is also an adjunct instructor at Jackson College where he teaches Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Intro to Counseling.

 

How to cope with anxiety

How to cope with anxiety

What is anxiety?

On some level, anxiety is a good thing. Anxiety has allowed humans to survive this long. Our body has a natural alarm system which lets us know if something is going wrong or if something doesn’t feel right. If there is a real threat present, anxiety enters in order to prepare your body for fight or flight. Think of how your body would respond if you were walking alone in the woods and encountered a grizzly bear…

In a certain sense, anxiety is a gift.

But sometimes, our body’s alarm system goes off at all the wrong times. Our body tells us, “You can’t sleep right now, you have to worry about what is going to happen tomorrow,” or, “Just think about how the world is going to come crashing down when people find out about who I really am,” or even, “How could you work right now when this is going on inside?”

Anxiety can overtake us.

It can prevent us from sleeping, from working, and can really start to take a toll on our relationships. Anxiety will try to convince us that we have serious health conditions, that we aren’t capable of handling this. Anxiety seems to flow through the fabric of our being.

Anxiety can be paralyzing.

It can prevent us from doing the simplest of tasks. Maybe you had one thing that you really wanted to get done today, but somehow before you knew it, it was 2AM and you felt like you hadn’t done anything.

Anxiety can trick us.

It can make us believe that all threats will happen, or it can make things seem threatening that truly pose no real threat. Anxiety tells us, “Don’t put yourself out there, it’s not worth it.” Anxiety tricks us into living a life filled with a false sense of protection.

How can therapy help me deal with anxiety?

We will begin by diving into the question of, “What is this anxiety doing FOR you?” Your body responds in certain ways for a reason. Maybe it’s our intuition that is telling us that something feels off. If so, there is a reason why our intuition is communicating with us. There is a reason why our body works the way that it works. It thinks that it is protecting us, but in reality it is sometimes hurting us.

tree_picThe process of discovering the various answers to this question will lead us on a deep exploration into the fabric of your soul. What makes you, you? What drives you? How have relationships in your life played into the person you are today, and how have they influenced how your body communicates to you?

The journey of therapy is a process of listening to yourself.

In therapy, we learn to listen to our body, to listen to what it is communicating, and to dive into why it is telling us what it is telling us. Your life is a narrative. The story has a plot, major themes, and major characters. Coming to understand all of these things is important in the journey of doing the “inner work.” Through self-discovery, we can begin to understand this anxiety from the perspective of your life. It has a role, but it does not have to be the star in the plot.

IdentityAnnArbor.com

img_2327About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim is passionate about working with people to help them better manage their anxiety. Tim is also an Adjunct Faculty member at Jackson College.

 

5 ways to find a therapist

5 ways to find a therapist

How do I find a therapist? That, is the question. Think about the following situation:

It’s late at night, and once again you can’t sleep.

Your thoughts are starting to get away from you again. Maybe it’s that thing that happened at work today, maybe it’s that person in your life who you just can’t seem to free yourself from, or maybe you’re thinking about something that’s looming and it seems to be holding your thoughts captive.

In this space, where many feel they don’t know where else to go, some people decide that they want to seek out a therapist. The decision to begin therapy is a hard decision, and often comes from a place of deep darkness and hopelessness. So once people make this incredibly hard decision, they often have no idea where to start looking for a great therapist. You’re already in a tough place, but now you have to sift through the countless number of therapists in your area, trying to decide who could truly help you.

How do I find a great counselor? How do I find a therapist that can actually help me?

As a therapist, my belief is that the most important component in finding a therapist is finding someone who you can truly connect with. Without this critical component, it may be very difficult to make real progress.

  1. Start by asking friends and family about counselors

The first place I recommend to start is with asking friends or family. Most of us have only a few people in our lives who truly know us. I’m talking about the people who know us to our core. Maybe these are the only people in your life that you feel comfortable talking to about deeply personal things. These people are who I call your “inner circle.” So I would begin by asking the few people in your inner circle, “Hey, I am considering starting therapy. Do you know of any great therapists?”

But maybe you don’t feel comfortable telling anyone about this. Maybe this issue is something that you hold closely. Not even your inner circle can know about this. If this is the case, I would recommend doing a quick Google search using the issue you’re dealing with and your area.

  1. Search “your issue” + “counseling” + “your location” in Google.

For example, if someone were looking for a counselor like me, they may type, “Counselor in Ann Arbor MI anxiety,” or, “motivation issues therapist Ann Arbor Michigan.” This will give you a good general idea of some of the most common resources in your area. Therapists who rank higher in Google are often the most established or currently active therapists in your community. Therapists websites will hopefully give you important information like which issues they typically work with, what their theoretical framework is, and what types of outcomes their clients can expect. Usually the first page to pop up on Google is Psychology Today. This is the number 1 referral source for counselors, therapists, and psychologists.

  1. Check online networks for counselors – Psychology Today or GoodTherapy

Here is a link to my Psychology Today profile. Psychology Today is a great resource because it allows you to get a quick snapshot of several people all on one website. Each therapist has a brief description which highlights how they work and their focus areas. For example, here is something my profile says:

My passion is to help you manage your anxiety, discover or rediscover your true identity, and find your inner motivation again so you can live a more meaningful, fulfilling, and inspired life.

Psychology Today profiles just give you a taste of what each therapist may be like. From there, I recommend going to their practice’s website (if they have one). Usually you can find more information about the therapist there. There are similar resources to Psychology Today, such as GoodTherapy (here is a link to my profile on GoodTherapy).

  1. Ask your county’s Community Mental Health (CMH) agency for counselor referrals

Most states have a Community Mental Health agency in each county. These agencies should have a referral list for therapists. Try giving them a call and asking if they have any recommendations for therapist who specialize in anxiety, or relationship issues, or motivation issues, etc.

  1. Ask your primary care physician about therapists

This option is listed last for a reason. For some reason, the physical health field seems to distance itself from the mental health field, so physicians won’t always readily recommend therapy. This isn’t always the case- I know some doctors who totally recommend evidence based approaches to psychotherapy. Regardless, each medical clinic should have referral recommendations for counselors, therapists, and psychologists. In addition to this, your primary care physician is (hopefully) a medical professional that you have built a trusting relationship with. Since they know your physical body and your personality well, they may be able to at least recommend a therapy style that they think would work best for you (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Existential Therapy, Person Centered Therapy, etc.).

There you have it! Also if you find yourself in the Ann Arbor area, and are looking for a therapist, feel free to contact me. I’d love to help you find someone who you’ll be a great fit with, even if it’s not me!

IdentityAnnArbor.com

About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim’s counseling focus areas are anxiety, motivation, and identity issues. Tim is also an adjunct instructor at Jackson College where he teaches Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Intro to Counseling.